Renaissance woman — Linda Tardif takes over the Shea Theater
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
The Western Massachusetts town of Turners Falls has been brewing up a Renaissance for the past decade or so, with residents hard at work to address its problems and bring new businesses and restaurants to downtown. Part of the picture of that revitalized community is the newly-revamped Shea Theater. Reopened last spring after an overhaul that includes a new lobby, seating, and sound equipment, the 340-seat space hosts everything from local school events, to concerts presented by Signature Sounds, to nationally-touring comedians. That is thanks to the theater's board, which has a mission of always saying "yes," and its new managing director, Linda Tardif '11.
"I want this to be a space where people can be seen and heard and feel safe," she said.
Arts administration was not a path Tardif originally envisioned for herself, but it's in some ways an outgrowth of her education at UMass.
Always a performer, she thought she'd enroll in a BFA program after high school. She ended up at UMass instead. "I was so wrong!" Tardif said. "I so loved that my education was as well-rounded as it was." While she took acting classes and performed in mainstage shows, she cited courses like stage management as valuable preparation for what she does now.
After graduating, she set out for New York. She did well for herself, auditioning successfully for shows at LaMama, participating in events with Sleep No More, working on projects alumni of both the MFA and undergrad programs, and even booking a tour.
|Linda Tardif poses in the refurbished Shea Theater lobby. (photo courtesy of Linda Tardif)|
Still, she said, "that Western Mass connection just kept coming up in my life... I have UMass to thank for that. I am intrinsically connected to the Valley."
Both in New York and in Western Mass, she was booking gigs with PaintBox, Serious Play, Real Live Theatre — all of them connected to current and past UMass Theater folks in some way. "There are a lot of people that I love out here," she said. "I have been amazed over the years at how small the theater world is."
One of those friends was Marina Goldman. Tardif and Goldman had acted together in Professor Milan Dragicevich's Milosevic at the Hague and remained close. Goldman was involved in the efforts to revive the Shea Theater, and her husband, Josh, is treasurer of the board that spearheaded the renovation. Goldman invited Tardif to the theater's grand re-opening as an audience member, and she immediately took to the space. From there, getting involved only made sense. "Hey, you're here, why don't you come help," Goldman encouraged her, and over time, Tardif went from audience member to volunteer to helping out with house management and assisting the board. "It was a big learning year last year," she said. She worked with interim director Penny Burke, also of the Northampton Center for the Arts. "(Burke) is a great leader, and I fell into training underneath her," she said. As Burke prepared to depart, and with the support of the board, Tardif decided to apply for the position.
|Linda appeared onstage in La Mama's Marcellus Shale during her time living in New York City. (photo courtesy of Linda Tardif)|
"I am the first of hopefully many fulltime staff members," she said, explaining that her crew is, at this point, a stellar group of committed volunteers. Tardif manages the space, does outreach, and handles programming. The board, she said, "wants the theater as busy as possible." It's intended as a community space as well as an arts space, and the bigger shows help support more modest presentations. Tardif lists high school events, music, dance, an art salon, poetry readings, and some comedy. The lobby has local libations on offer on show nights now that they've got a liquor license, also part of making the Shea into a gathering space.
Amid all this, it's important to note that Tardif has by no means left her first love behind. In fact, she noted, she was in a PaintBox Theatre production that was booked into the Shea last summer — and PaintBox will be back at the Shea again this summer, something Tardif is pleased about.
"Selfishly, I want more theater in the space," she said, for projects like this summer's Wizard of Oz by PaintBox.
Asked whether arts administration is a path she plans to stay on, Tardiff is frank. "I don't know yet. It's hard, if you're in the arts, to be able to see off in the distance. But right now, it makes a lot of sense of me. It's appealing to me to have a little more security," she said, and she also thinks that this is a career that will allow her to remain involved in theater as a performer.
That said, she noted that "It's very soul-satisfying" for her to be able to provide space for people's artistic work.
Knowing her career journey, it's not surprising that Tardif has a quick answer when asked what advice she'd give a current student. "Say yes to everything — even if you can't quite put together the 'why' of the yes. You never want to leave a stone unturned if you're interested."
|Linda Tardif appeared with other UMass Theater alumnae in Real Live Theatre's Queen Margaret. (photo courtesy of Linda Tardif)|